Suspended in Charity

Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others.


Man walks into a coffee shop, pays for two coffees, only pick one up and walks away. Sounds like the set up for a joke, but that’s my first experience with a Caffè Sospeso. I looked at the man and politely told him that he forgot to get his second coffee. He looked at me and with all the dignity in the world said that coffee is something he would never forget, and pointed at a board behind the cashier.

A story of charity and generosity has been floating around the internet for several years now. The Urban legend says that in a working-class Café in Naples, every time someone who experienced a streak of good look would walk in and order a Caffè Sospeso. He would pay for two coffees but would only take one. Any poor soul entering the Café afterwards could inquire if there was a Sospreso available. He then would be handed the prepaid coffee. 

How much truth is there to the original story? Some people started saying that this story was started by coffee shops trying to boost sales. I think this is a rather petty way of seeing the world. Those people should change their attitude and start looking at the world as it should be. Whether the story is true or not, or whether the intention of the coffee shop was based on greed, the moral of the story and the reality that resulted is completely different. 

Hardships can hit anyone, and if life has been good enough to you, why not share your fortune. The idea is to do good because life has been good to you, to share your good fortune. To many people think you should do good to get good in return. You should do good because life has been good. You should do good because you should do good, and for no other reason. Don’t do good expecting payment. That is greed, and not generosity.

The Caffè Sospeso became a symbol of social solidarity. Coffee shops all over the world placed boards that read "Give if you wish. Get if you want". There they would mark available Sospeso, so everyone would know the shop was not cheating people out of charity. The tradition, being real or just an internet fantasy, inspired real acts of charity. Coffee shops began offering discount prices on Sospeso. Others would match Sospreso sales with monetary donations to Charities.

These random acts of anonymous charity have spread. From restaurants where people pay what they can for a meal to a free metro card taped on the subway entrance, charity is something found if we look for it. What you think is a small act, can actually mean the world for someone in need.

If you want to support this movement, Suspended Coffee can tell you how. Learn more about the movement, and how to participate.